When Are You 'Educated'?
Homeschooling / Unschooling

When Are You ‘Educated’?

This post is a guest post from my husband. I hope you enjoy his musings about education. You can find more of his posts here.When Are You 'Educated'?

At what point can someone claim to be “educated” or to have “received an education”?

We are led to believe that children must go to school to receive their education. So is it when you’ve finished school? Finished university? Is it only after all formal education has been completed and that has been complemented with “real-life” experiences?

There is a host of assumptions here and so many different ways to insult those who may not fit the normal criteria for an educated individual. For instance, you don’t need to go to university to become a mechanic or an electrician; and many individuals grow their career through life experience and taking the opportunities in front of them…does this mean they are uneducated?

Let’s break this down. If someone has finished school with consistently high marks, does this make them more or less educated than someone who finishes school with consistently average marks? If they have both completed the minimal requirements to satisfy the curriculum, then I’d argue they are equally educated. So if I am right, does that mean a high aptitude during your schooling years is not a requirement for an education?

Now let’s look at university. Does receiving an undergraduate degree from a prestigious university make someone more educated than someone who receives the same degree from a lesser known institution? Can you only claim to have received a full education once the school/university combination has been achieved? Where do TAFE or other professional development options sit?

When Are You 'Educated'?

As someone who has applied for numerous jobs, and as someone who is now an employer, I know that “real-life” experiences and on-the-job development are just as, if not more, important than formal education. In my line of work – event management/live entertainment – I see many graduates of event management degrees leaving university in search of Event Manager, Senior Event Manager, and Event Strategist roles in our industry; and none of them will ever be successful in landing those roles straight out of university. They may be text book smart, but I can assure you that events are not planned, executed, and debriefed based on learnings from Chapters 1 – 20 of Event Management 101. I look for people who have attended numerous events; I look for people who are already working at the cold-face as lowly ushers, ticket scanners, F&B attendants and admin assistants; I look for people who understand that event management is not as sexy as it sounds, in fact they need to both accept and revel in the understanding that weekends no longer exist, the salaries are ridiculously small, and you never get to meet anyone famous unless you own the venue. But they don’t pitch that to new undergrads at university…

So does this now make me educated on the event industry? I finished school with above average marks, I completed two undergraduate degrees at a prestigious university, and now I have over 10 years of experience in my chosen field. I guess I could claim to be “formally educated”, except that I can’t remember anything I learnt at school and I would argue very little of it was relevant to my career now. The few skills that I did pick up through formal education weren’t worth the time and expense of that channel, when the same could have been achieved in a more constructive fashion. I guess choosing university degrees and a career at 17 doesn’t make much sense in hindsight.

So this brings me back to my initial question – at what point can you claim to be educated? If indeed education, or learning, is a life-long pursuit then at no point can one claim to have achieved it; otherwise you will have nothing left to learn. If education is individual and never-ending, then how can we accept that a standardized school/university pathway is the way to achieve that? School/University has a place for many people who are looking for more formal learning experiences, and for many professions it’s a requirement rather than an option. By the same token though, school/university offers a learning platform that cannot compete with getting out and getting your hands dirty, which in many professions is preferable to a formal education.

When Are You 'Educated'?

Looking at the schooling system there are some obvious questions; who decided that school is best started at 5 years of age? Who decided that an “education has been achieved” when 12 years was successfully completed? Who decided what the pass mark is, and moreover who decided that everyone needed to pass the same style of test in order to achieve that mark? Why is school Monday to Friday, 9am to 3pm? Why not 2 days or 3 days, or 7 days a week? When you really sit down to think about it, the concept of school is strange when the ultimate goal is for a person to have been given the tools to follow their own interests and ambitions, and to have had their eyes opened to all the world can offer. I’m not sure school and the structure it employs can properly equip students for what comes after their 12 years of schooling. Who decided that this was ‘education’?

When Are You 'Educated'?

I consider my kids extremely lucky to be unschooled; to have the luxury of time for their learning; to be tested by the never-ending stream of information or things-unknown rather than a question on a piece of paper; to chase knowledge in any capacity they see fit; and to learn how to develop their own interests, opinions, and passions at any pace they wish. They will get to decide for themselves what their education looks like.

Education isn’t limited to school, or a graduation certificate, or a degree, or anyone else’s arbitrary requirements. It is not up to someone else to tell you when you are ‘educated’. My kids will always know that education is limitless.


September 29, 2015 at 7:56 pm

Brilliant article, makes so much sense. People make decisions for our children and for schools who have no experience working with them themselves, standardised testing for one. Children should be encouraged to find their own interests, talents and passions, (adults too!) and it shouldn’t just be about your qualifications, life is too short to be unhappy.

    February 23, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    this is not a good article at all. first of all it is your “FORMAL EDUCATION” that enable you to write this article in the way you did and don’t look at school as a way to control your kids cause I am pretty sure that your kids are smarter than the average kids within their age group mainly because of the fact that you know the importants of FORMAL EDUCATION. last I want you to pay attention to the fact that you are a employer and not a employee and those employees that you hire have a lower level of FORMAL EDUCATION than you… your article is very ignorant.

      February 23, 2016 at 2:14 pm

      Not sure where to start on this one. We have a different view of the ‘importants’ of FORMAL EDUCATION.

      February 23, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      You sound quite passionate and that’s great. I think we all agree that everyone should be passionate about experiences and opportunity for kids, but perhaps you need to be more mindful of the tone of your responses; you have come across quite ignorant of the intent of the article and of the facts.

      You don’t need formal/traditional education to learn how to write. You don’t need need formal/traditional education to learn how to talk, problem solve, think outside the box, and be passionate about learning.

      Nor do you need formal/traditional education to be employed. Sure there are many careers that require certain levels of formal training and at present that can’t be avoided, but if you look at the way many well known companies are moving you’ll see they have programs and recruitment strategies that target self-starters, self-taught passionate people.

      As an employer I can tell you that when it comes to hiring people, education is only one small component. 99% of the decision comes down to the person – personality, attitude, ability to fit into the existing team, ability to learn, ability to work autonomously….none of these things need to be learnt through formal education. In fact, these are better “discovered” outside the school room.

      So to summarize (as a formally educated person might say), pull your head in and think before you make ignorant comments without fact or logic.

        May 1, 2018 at 5:46 pm

        Respectfully you are very misleading. Your job sounds like a bureaucratic/ procedural/creative one and as such perhaps a degree is not necessary. Perhaps you can learn on the job.This is is not true of all jobs. Particularly high level, technical professional jobs. My husband is an insolvency accountant. He has learnt huge amounts on the job but at some point he had to have the formal qualifications. There is a huge amount to learn, e.g insolvency law, tax, etc. This required 8 years of formal study (two degrees, three years training as a CA and one year post graduate study in insolvency). The same is true of my father in law who is an ophthalmologist. Years of content rich study AS WELL AS hands on experience. Again his job required long years of formal education. Ditto my dad who was an industrial chemist. Regards

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